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Student Spotlight - MLIS Master of Library and Information Studies

Laura Burge was at a Crossroads in her Life

I was at a crossroads in my life. I worked as a teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Then I found myself getting a divorce with two young children at home and a large job gap in my resume. 

I carefully considered my career options and decided that working in a public library would be a great fit for me. I enrolled in UA's online MLIS program and started the 30-month road to graduation. I didn't have an American qualification nor any work experience, but completing an internship through UA at my local library led to subbing and finally a full-time job as a youth librarian. I found employment six months before completing the MLIS degree program! 

I am so grateful for the program. Online learning with live classes worked perfectly for me. I was able to keep an eye on my children without the need for babysitters, and it kept me on track because it was so similar to traditional classroom study. Visiting the University for orientation made me feel like I was part of the Alabama tradition, and I still support the Tide to this day! 

I now work for the same library where I interned and am the happiest I have ever been in my career. I just celebrated four years with the library. Without UA I would not be financially independent nor have a job that I love. I am so grateful for my experience with The University of Alabama. Thank you so much and Roll Tide!

From a Love of Libraries to a Career that She Loves

Amber Murray

Florence, Alabama native Amber Murray's love of libraries developed at a very young age. The local library in her rural community was her opportunity to explore other people, places and cultures that, otherwise, she would not have been able to experience.

“Information technologies have changed quite a bit since then and libraries have evolved with them. Now, with an abundance of information readily available, it can be difficult to sort through and find fact-based information. The Master of Library Science and Information Studies program has taught me how to perform better research and how to connect others with quality information through materials and services,” she said.

However, an MLIS wasn't always something Amber had considered. At least, not until a conversation with a friend who was a recent graduate of UA's MLIS program. But when she began researching degree programs, she realized she faced a few obstacles: How would she attend class and work full-time, especially without a university nearby? How did she know she was earning a quality degree? Could she do it all?

“I considered a couple of other nearby programs but this one is accredited by the American Library Association, which employers will be looking for on a resume. It has also been ranked in the top 20 programs in the nation. UA's MLIS program gives students the choice to attend fully on-campus, online, or a hybrid of the two. I appreciated that there were options available for students with different schedules and learning styles.” 

However, it was the online format that helped her make her final decision. 

“The possibility of distance learning influenced my decision to apply. This program is perfect for those considering a master's degree who don't live near a college campus. With no commute and virtual evening classes only one night a week, going back to school becomes an entirely achievable goal,” she said.

Amber has a full-time job and found that the weekly, online class fit easily into her schedule. Her connection to UA was solidified by these real-time classrooms that allowed her to connect with her peers and professors as if she were in a physical classroom. 

“It's really the best of both worlds. You receive the same quality education as campus students but from the comfort of your own home,” she said. 

Amber looks forward to the opportunities that await her upon graduation. 

“Having a master's degree allows me to broaden my job search to include positions that I was previously unqualified for and to hopefully increase my salary. Also, the internships that I participated in for credit through UA provided me with some practical knowledge in a working environment that was near my home. I made some great connections through this experience and through my professors and fellow students.”

Natalie Coady Learned to Say Roll Tide

Natalie Coady confessed she didn't have much knowledge of Alabama Athletics before enrolling in the University's online Master of Library and Information Studies program.

“Before I began the online MLIS program at UA, I had no idea what ‘Crimson Tide' was or what ‘Roll Tide' meant,” commented the recent UA graduate. “I'm originally from Philadelphia and have lived in Quincy, Massachusetts for six years, so I did not have much familiarity with cultural activities outside of the mid-Atlantic and New England regions. As soon as I attended the online MLIS program campus orientation, I felt very much a part of the University. As I received emails about upcoming football game day and school events, I began paying close attention.  Even though my online classes weren't on campus in Tuscaloosa, I felt like I was there. Plus, participating in online activities with professors and Tuscaloosa area students made me feel a part of the community.”

While searching for an affordable, high quality MLIS program, Natalie considered the advice from a friend and her need for a program delivered via distance technologies.

“A friend completed the program and recommended I apply for admission. The cohort model, small class size, nationally-renowned professors and reputation of the school helped me realize UA's online MLIS was for me,” Natalie explained.

“Due to work and family obligations, I had to have an online program in order to pursue my degree. UA offered a high quality online program at a competitive cost, so that became a deciding factor,” she said. “I loved the program.”

One of the unique qualities of UA's online MLIS program is the required on-campus orientation.

“I started a Facebook page and everyone in our cohort joined it. We became an online family that I loved being a part of. It's the cohort feeling that made it unique and helped give me focus. We were all there for each other and so were the professors,” said Natalie. “I would advise new students to make connections with their cohort family ASAP.  Find those who might be in your geographical area or establish contact with those outside your area using online technologies.”

Another unique advantage of UA's online MLIS program is the dedication of the support staff.

“Whenever I needed support, they were really helpful with every question and concern,” commented Natalie. “I loved having constant assistance from the School of Library and Information Studies staff. This made it easy to navigate through all of the steps associated with registering for courses and keeping up with the goings on of the University.”

Natalie, who currently serves as a Library Coordinator at UMass Boston's Healey Library, hopes having the online MLIS credential will lead to career advancement as well as other professional opportunities. Wherever she lands, Natalie Coady can now proudly call herself a member of the Crimson Tide family.

Rebecca Jones Found the Place Where she Belongs

Living in Whitewater, Wisconsin, with her husband and two cats, meant Rebecca Jones could not relocate to earn her master's degree. With other family members nearby and a job at a local university library, it was important to find an online program that would allow her to continue working and residing in Wisconsin.

On a recent visit to Chicago for the American Library Association Conference, she set out to find the ideal online MLIS program. “I am finding the place I belong,” said Rebecca, as she visited with numerous college recruiters.

“Many of the programs sounded interesting, but none of them really blew me away until I met the MLIS faculty and staff from The University of Alabama. What sold me on UA was the class style. I was expecting the online classes to be taught as a series of discussion posts that I had to read and follow along with, rarely hearing an actual professor's voice. In UA's online MLIS program, courses are delivered real time through the internet with professors lecturing and answering questions just like a class that is delivered in the traditional, on-campus environment.”

In addition to the online format, Rebecca was impressed with the program's required campus orientation.

“The orientation provides a connection to other students and the University. I met online students who were learning with me in my cohort. We developed a mutual bond and understanding that will aid in each class we take. I know that other students in the program have valuable dreams, goals and their own unique perspectives.”

Affordability was another factor that weighed heavily in the decision to apply to UA's online MLIS program.

“The cost of the program was a huge plus. The UA online MLIS program was very affordable, even for out-of-state students. Knowing that I could afford to earn a quality degree online was the reason I didn't give applying to UA a second thought.”

Rebecca offers advice for those who are considering online MLIS programs at other institutions.

“The staff and faculty at UA are always willing to help, and with a smile! They are so welcoming and I can't help but be proud to be a part of the campus, even though I am an online student. They have a passion for the program that is contagious. You can't help but achieve in this atmosphere.”

She hopes an online MLIS degree from The University of Alabama will lead to successful career as well.

“I currently serve as a public relations specialist and student supervisor for a university campus library. I am interested in marketing libraries and planning events that mutually benefit and include the library and other departments on campus. I am at a point in my career that I cannot advance without an MLIS degree. Many opportunities will be available to me once I earn my degree.”

Rebecca looks forward to earning her MLIS degree and continuing her career in the field of library and information studies. She is a member of the UA online MLIS “Cloud Nines” cohort that began taking courses in Fall 2013.